Trip 4 [Saturday]
We arrived in the town outside of the village around 11a due to a late start and a few missed turns made by the driver. A lunch was scheduled at noon, so we decided to eat earlier instead of making two trips. The rain was light, but steady, and everything was soaked from the thunderstorms that swept through earlier.
After lunch we drove to the village. Ted and I set out to the forest accompanied by Bright Yang, a Beijing University of Technology student, who was ill prepared. We bought him an umbrella and some extra water for the hike. We started on the trail and climbed up to the tea shrine. Bright Yang said we should “be careful of snakes”. That was the red flag but Ted and I disregarded his funny comment. The shrine wasn’t very impressive –a smaller version of a Chinese house with a Buddha-type figure inside. There were many beer bottles strewn about in front of the little building. Next to the shrine is a 100 year-old tree, which was more interesting. It was severe and twisted looking, covered in moss, contrasting with the younger foliage.
We pressed on down the main trail looking for an offshoot that we noticed during our last trip. Bright Young asked if we had a map. We didn’t. We walked for 3km and Bright Yang said he was getting a little tired. I tried to explain to him that we didn’t need him to come with us (most of the BJUT students are sent as translators), but he didn’t seem to understand or was just stubborn. Ted and I found the side trail and we gave Bright Yang one last chance to turn around. “Bright Yang, your clothes and shoes will be very wet,” I explained. “We’re going up to the top of this mountain.” Unfortunately his English wasn’t good enough to really understand and he followed us, all the way up. The trail followed an old narrow creek bed. Halfway up the mountain the trail dead-ended into a rock wall. It was climbable, so we just kept going, in part because of Ted’s insatiable curiosity. Bright Yang looked a little perplexed but followed Ted’s lead. I watched every step he took thinking “oh shit, this kid is going to fall and break something, and we’re going to have to carry him back.” He made it, and we kept going.
The trail became very muddy in some parts, and Bright Yang slipped often, falling to his hands and knees. At one point the trail became very distinct and composed with flat rocks placed as steps leading up to a plateau. We reached the top and found another stone hut, circular in shape, with a small opening in the front, barely big enough to crawl through, and a small opening on the top like a chimney. Saplings and plants covered the structure revealing it’s age. We still don’t know what these are….and neither do the villagers we’ve talked to. We kept hiking and began to see light through the trees ahead of us signaling that we were almost at the top. We reached the rock peak, which gave us an impressive view of the surrounding mountains. It looked like a Chinese painting because the rain created low clouds, and the mountains off in the distance disappeared into the whiteness.
We turned around and began heading down to Bright Yang’s delight, which quickly became hardship as his flat-footed steps down the incline left him sitting down, again, and again. The seat of his pants was caked with mud, and the umbrella we bought him was haggard and dirty. The rock face came quick and Ted went first, and then guided Bright Yang’s feet from below, literally grabbing his foot and placing it on the rock. Despite all of his trouble, Bright Yang remained cheerful, although it may have been out of politeness.
We reached the bottom and started walking back down the main trail.
Back at the village the group was waiting for the driver to pick us up for dinner. We drove into the town, and ate another version of lunch for dinner. After our meal we drove back, and began setting up the movie to be projected on a screen Andy and the villagers had constructed out of timbers in one of the main streets.
The village was full of people and kids. The weekend population is much larger than what we have experienced during the week, making things seems less entropic. After about 20 minutes of shuffling around with equipment and extension cords we learned that the electricity was out for some reason. This was the first hill on our movie rollercoaster. Everyone seemed a little let down, but the crowd remained nonetheless. Then all of sudden the streetlights came on like a miracle. We were in business. One of the villagers ran the extension cord to a house, and the next hill presented itself –the female end of the American extension cord would not fit into the male end of the Chinese power strip. But the Villager quickly remedied the problem by modifying the terminals of the power strip with pliers. He bent the ground terminal completely off and twisted the remaining two to make the connection. We had power. The cloth screen was attached to the wood structure and the electronics were hooked up. We had a picture. Andy put in the DVD, but the picture came up scrambled, and there was no sound. Many attempts were made to clean off the DVD a puff of breath and a wipe of the shirt, but it did not improve. Another DVD player was brought out from someone’s home, but the disc still wouldn’t play. We didn’t have another DVD, and it seemed like the whole thing was a bust. Andy asked the village leader to bring one of his own movies, and he showed up a few minutes later with a Jackie Chan DVD from the early 90’s.
It probably worked out better this way because the kids in the audience were immediately captured by the action and laughed at the simple humor. The movie had some trouble with skipping, but we pushed through it’s hiccups, until about an hour into the film, after the crowd had thinned a little, a fatal skip occurred that the disc could not recover from, and the villagers naturally dispersed as if we had said show is over. It was a good turn out, and we were packed up and in the van by 10p.
(note: the top photo of the film screening was taken by Andy. He increased the exposure time on his digital camera, no photoshop effects were used)